How Living Abroad Prepared Me For My First Job

“You lived in Japan?!” is a common reaction I receive when I share my experiences living abroad. As expected, a multitude of questions are thrown in my direction every time the topic comes up. Here's a quick rundown of my time in one of the most amazing cities on Earth.

When I was just twelve years old, my Dad took a job in Tokyo, Japan that brought my entire family (including my adorable golden retriever) to the land of the rising sun. I was immediately enrolled in an American school where I would meet people who, to this day, are my best friends. Little did I know at the time that this is where I would call home for six years, and boy, was it the best six years. I did everything from learning Japanese, visiting beautiful, iconic temples, to singing カラオケ (Karaoke) with all of my friends. 

So…how did all of this prepare me for the “real world”?

First, living abroad gave me the competitive edge I never saw coming. There wasn’t a single interview where someone didn’t ask me about ‘The American School in Japan, 2013’ listed on my resume. Being able to share my story allowed employers to see a more personal side of me and gave them the opportunity to look through my lens of life. Culture in the workplace has always been one of the most important elements to me, and this conversation sparked a connection that allowed, both myself and the interviewer, to see if the company culture was a good fit.  

Second, after landing the job, I found myself comparing my adjustment to my job to the adjustment of moving overseas. Fresh out of college, my first job out of college felt like entering a completely new school of fish. How do I adjust to a new environment? Living abroad made me understand that everyone works differently and that it’s so important to respect the way people are. Learn more and more, and then even more. Get to know the company by introducing yourself to people, in or outside of your department, and learn more about their role and how it impacts the business. How is it relevant to your role? Putting yourself in the shoes of your co-workers will take you far. 

Third, living abroad taught me organizational skills. Having scheduled Skype calls with family and friends back in the US where it was my 8am and their 5pm (the day before might I add), I became very familiar with Skype and working with others to make time for important things. I now use Skype for Business every single day at work and know when to schedule that important meeting with my boss. Make the most efficient use of your time. Thank you, long distance living, for teaching me this.

Fourth, living abroad set the expectations for the opportunity for my career to take me overseas. From what to expect in your personal life to determining how good is the international package your company is offering you. Also, most importantly, living abroad growing up inspired me to say ‘YES’ more often. Say yes to new adventures and new opportunities because you never know where they could lead.

Stamped on 8/14/2017 by The Letter Bea